“Nutrition Education 1956”

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Nobody had commented about diet during my early years. I ate whatever was put in front of me without complaint. The idea that parents would plan their meals around children’s preferences had not taken hold in the 1950’s. So I was quite surprised in third grade to be presented with a version of the poster above produced in the U.S. in 1956 and distributed nationwide.

This plan prescribed “good eating,” and our third grade teacher used it to discuss a “good breakfast.” Up to this point in my life I had happily enjoyed a bowl of cold cereal with milk every morning. On special mornings it was Frosted Flakes, but generally it was Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies.  Our teacher went over the plan with us and then asked each one of us what we had eaten for breakfast that morning.

To my dismay, my classmates began describing hot breakfasts including eggs, bacon, orange juice or hot cereal, toast and orange juice. I quickly got the message and hastily invented the breakfast that I would report when it was my turn. So for that one day, I had two fried eggs, toast and bacon! It was the first time I felt shame about what I ate, but it would be far from the last time. Government edicts, women’s magazines and schools would be standing in line from then on to tell me what I ought to be eating.

19 thoughts on ““Nutrition Education 1956”

  1. I had hot cereal for breakfast as a child: aka porridge! In Jamaica, we make all sorts aside from oatmeal. My favourite is rice porridge and I make the best pot of it in the family!

  2. We had nothing like that when I was at school. My Mum cooked the same meals on each day of the week, so whatever day it was, I always knew what to expect. In the winter, we had stodgy, warming food, to combat the weather. In summer, we had similar meals, just less of it. Everything was supplemented with cakes and cookies. Fruit was mainly pears and apples, but we had strawberries in season, and whatever my grandparents could grow in a tiny garden, like rhubarb.
    I never heard anything about ‘healthy eating’, until the 1970s.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I enjoyed the predictability of the same meal each day of the week. Now we are pressured to cook every cuisine under the sun. We only ate seasonally too. Now they are actually encouraging people to do that. Too funny.

  3. I’ve not yet forgiven them from telling me skimmed milk was better than full fat for all those years. I never did give up eggs though – nor butter for margarine – not after I read a newspaper article about how margarine was made… Compare that to how butter’s made – just take your cream and shake for a while.

  4. I grew up in the late 50’s and 60’s and in our family putting food on the table was the main priority. I don’t know if my mum was aware of nutrition advice at the time. Funny think is we grew up to be pretty healthy anyway. It’s only now that nutrition is such a focus that we have problems with ill-health and weight gain in our children. Too much processed food around these days.

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